Go get em!: Doggie rabbit dreams?


Q. Dognapping Rover starts moving his legs, ears, whiskers, wagging his tail, whining. Certainly looks like he's dreaming, but how could anybody ever tell for sure? ­Clifford

A. Electrophysiological recordings of animals sleeping show brain activity resembling that of humans, says Peretz Lavie in The Enchanted World of Sleep. Dogs and almost all other mammals exhibit REM sleep (for "rapid eye movements") similar to human dreaming sleep.

But that's a long way from proving action-packed dramas unfold in Rover's night mind. There's no direct answer to this, says Lavie, but some suggestive evidence. In one highly original study, researchers trained a monkey to pull a handle whenever movie images were projected onto a screen. Once the monkey had mastered this, an electrophysiological recording of its sleep was made to see if it would "report" on its dreams. It did. Right on cue, during REM sleep, the monkey instinctively pulled the handle, "as though it were seeing the movies."

Other evidence comes from Michel Jouvet's studies of cats with brain injuries that led them to "act out" their dreams. The sleeping cats would get up and move around, arching their back and hissing– as if at imaginary dream attackers. They would also seemingly toy with invisible mice, while real mice placed nearby went ignored.

So go ahead– wish bedtime Rover "Pleasant dreams!"

Q. "If music be the food of love, play on!" Did Shakespeare get it right? Are there tested effects of background music on wining, dining, lovemaking? ­M. Muzak

A. The Bard knew his brain-body basics, says Los Angeles ethnomusicologist Elizabeth Miles, author of Tune Your Brain: Using Music to Manage Your Mind, Body and Mood. The first place music hits after coming through your ears is the hypothalamus, home of basic drives from hunger to lust.

"So if a song has ever made you look at a member of the opposite sex with a fresh eye, that's why," she says.

Next, the electrical impulses of music move through the entire nervous system, either speeding up or slowing down its function. Choose something loud and upbeat and it's a sort of musical Viagra, increasing circulation and breathing rate. Go low and slow and it's more like drinking a glass of wine. Either route can provide a libidinal boost, depending upon your disposition.

Various studies have found slow background music can slow the speed of eating, good for digestion and dieting and for enjoying a long, sociable meal. Loud and fast music can speed up your intake rate, a reason why rock and roll rules at some restaurants looking to rack up big dinner checks. As for lovemaking, in a groundbreaking experiment by psychologist Avram Goldstein, people rated the thrills they get from music even higher than sex, complete with graphic descriptions of what tingles where during the best passages.

"In my own nationwide survey of how people use music in their lives, I was surprised to note a lack of effort to exploit music's erotic potential, suggesting we would all be wise to remember Shakespeare's words... and play on."

Q. What's the party trick with 1089 to captivate a roomful of techies? ­B. Gates

A. First multiply this curious number by 9 to get 9801 (1089 x 9). Notice this reverses the original digits.

Next put a 9 in the middle of 1089 and do the multiplication: 10989 x 9 = 98901. Again the digits are reversed, with the inserted 9 winding up in the middle of the answer. Amazingly, you can insert any number of 9's before multiplying and the same pattern results: 1099989 x 9 = 9899901; 109999999989 x 9 = 989999999901.

Q. Tennis pro Greg Rusedski's mighty serves were clocked at over 140 mph. What's the fastest sports ball anyway? ­G. White

A. The rock-hard rubber jai alai pelota ("merry festival" in the Basque language), slung out of basket-like scoops at 188 mph, says NASA Ames Research Center scientist Rabindra D. Mehta. Next are a golf ball off the tee at 170 mph and a served tennis ball at about 150 mph. Batted baseballs come close to 150, especially off aluminum bats pulling down the line, while thrown balls attain far less, adds physicist Robert K. Adair.

BTW, don't expect much more speed if you could take these games to the Moon, although the multiplied distances in the one-sixth gravity and frictionless space will keep a ball fetcher chasing for a good while.

Send Strange questions to brothers Bill and Rich at strangetrue@compuserve.com.